Click the Pic N' Mix - past blog posts from Bang2write (click & scroll down for articles)

2leep.com

Monday, November 30, 2009

Ch-Ch-Changes

Writers are a funny bunch. We get so attached to various *bits* of our screenplays, we often can't see the woods for the trees: what's more, this happens to any writer, new or experienced.

So one question I often ask Bang2writers is this:

What you lose/gain [if you changed/cut/moved etc this part of your script]?

In terms of losses when someone redrafts/rewrites (even just small elements of their screenplay), I'm always struck by how insignificant those losses actually are - ie. the writer might miss it, but readers (and thus the audience) rarely notice its passing, whether it's half a scene, a particular moment, a dialogue exchange, even a whole character. In short, making cuts (or losses) doesn't usually make a script worse in my experience.

However the gains of making changes can be massive. Suddenly character motivations might come clear; dialogue might seem less "fatty"; a structural niggle might cease - or another moment in your script might get the opportunity to shine instead.

Don't believe it? Consider Monty Python's Terry "wafffer theeeeen" Jones, who is the somewhat unlikely screenwriter of Jim Henson's Labyrinth. I was watching a "making of" recently and he makes reference to the famous moment where Sarah falls into the tunnel of talking green hands*, easily one of the best, most visual and interesting scenes of the whole film. Those of you who have watched it will remember the hands form faces with mouths and eyes in order to talk to Sarah, a moment that enthralled me as a child: "Which way do you want to go?"

But was it always like the way it ends up on screen? Absolutely not. In fact, Jones admits originally the hands were formed by some of them randomly holding lipsticks in order to DRAW faces on the other hands. When he presented the draft to Henson, apparently the Muppet Man himself said: "Why don't they just make the faces themselves?" To which Jones simply replied, "Oh yeah...."!!


*For those who have no idea what I'm on about, see the pic above... Also this 80s trailer is unbelievably high on cheese and doesn't do a great job of selling the film, but you can see the green hands about 27 secs in.

Monday, November 23, 2009

OPPORTUNITY: Calling All Laydeez in Media...

... Drunken Werewolf magazine is doing a one-off edition fanzine, featuring "Women in Media" and is looking for contributors.

I of course will be contributing to this important edition: women's representation in film (and thus the spec pile) has long since been a concern to me, but just recently I have been party to some extraordinary developments regarding the (lack of) understanding of female characters other (nameless) readers have exhibited, so I will be writing about that.

Do note you don't have to be a screenwriter to feature in the fanzine. If you're a novelist, an artist, a journalist, a development executive, a producer, a director, a graphic designer, a songwriter, a cartoonist, whatever - as long as you're a woman and you work in the media, they want to hear from you.

It's not paid, but it is an opportunity to get your voice heard - and we all know girlz how infrequently we get an open invite like this to "share and air" without being called out for it, so please: GO FOR IT.

CONTACT: drunkenwerewolf"at"hotmail"dot"co"dot"uk

Drunken Werewolf on MySpace

Drunken Werewolf Music Blog

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Guest Post: The TV Forum at The Script Factory by Hilary Wright

Two days at the Soho Theatre in Dean Street for The Script Factory’s take on TV drama. Mornings featured lectures by Rob Ritchie: four-act structure, handling multiple storylines, writing to immovable deadlines, dialogue vs. pictures, rules and conventions of British TV drama formats… and that was just the first morning. As ever with Script Factory courses, participants receive a helpful binder of notes covering the content in great detail. I’ve heard some Script Factory presenters simply read these notes out, which is dull, but Ritchie was far more adept, rounding out the printed content with explanation, anecdote and reminder, deftly using audience questions to segue to his next point. Informative, engaging; I’d certainly go to hear this presenter again.

The afternoons were given over to guests. On day one we heard from Emmerdale’s Bill Lyons and Kate Rowland from the BBC Writers Room. I was particularly glad to hear Kate as her presentation at SWF had been full to overflowing and I hadn’t been able to get in. Her advice was “be emotionally bold. Take us on a challenging, complex emotional journey.” For the submission of series ideas, write one episode only; a one-page synopsis of the remaining episodes will do.

Day two featured morning lectures on creating characters audiences will return to week after week, developing a precinct, story bibles, pilots, plus a discussion of sitcom. In the afternoon Michael A Walker talked about his role in co-writing Collision. At that time only four of its five episodes had been broadcast, so discussion of the series was limited to prevent spoilers. Finally, Tony Grisoni talked about adapting Red Riding and explored his collaboration with Samantha Morton on The Unloved.

The class, accessible and entertaining, is not necessarily for beginners. With the exception of Bill Lyons, discussion focused on the creation of an original series; but it is the rare writer who manages to get an original series greenlit without first gaining credits on Doctors and other continuing drama series, and these shows require a different skillset. The course is probably more useful to those who already have credits, and indeed one participant was a graduate of the BBC Writers’ Academy.
___________________________________________________
Many thanks Hilary, some great insights there! I was very interested in this forum, but the price tag was just prohibitive for me so soon after SLASH and so close to Christmas. Did you go to the Forum as well? If so, let us know your thoughts in the comments.

REMEMBER: If you have been to a course or event like Hilary or want to share your thoughts on anything else scriptwriting or writing-related in a guest post of your own, drop me a line at Bang2write"at"aol"dot"com.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Nanowrimo Special: Julian Friedmann at the SWF 09 "A Novel Approach"

I've been saving this to post up when the wind went out of my sails on Nanowrimo - which is right now. If you are too, check out Julian's thoughts below, might give you the push you need!
----------------------------------------------
Novelists turn to screenwriting and vice versa, but this often fails. Why? We are all STORYTELLERS. But to write a 100,000 word novel typically takes 6 - 9 months, which can be very off-putting. Nevertheless, Julian believes writing prose is a very serious compliment to screenwriting.

Six Reasons to Write Books As Well As Scripts:

- You've probably read more novels than scripts - plus at school you will have done English Literature, at least until GCSE.

- You don't need all the structural stuff

- Easier to tell a story in prose than a script: there is an obsession with "scriptwriting", rather than "storytelling"

-Characters are allowed to THINK and FEEL in books in a way they can't in scripts

- Novels are excellent templates for producers who have more RESPECT for books; there is the myth adaptation is better than original works

- You make more money! Novelists typically make more than your average screenwriter; in the UK we publish 10,000 novels a year but make maybe 100 films. No contest.

Advice

- Find out where the market is - is there a market for your book? Who would read your book? Who are the publishers that produce books like yours? Do your research.

- You need to be able to pitch your book EASILY - just like films. It needs a clear idea behind it.

- Your choice on what to write should not be based on what you LIKE reading yourself

- Don't try something when the odds are stacked against you - create an illusion you KNOW what you're talking about

- Read all the high profile books in the genre you choose; look at the associations available for that genre, ie. The Children's Book Writers' Association

- It's very difficult to get a deal on JUST a synopsis and first three chapters

- Start getting feedback on your novel BEFORE you finish

- Decide which publishers you want to submit to and ring them up; never write "Dear Sir/Madam" in query letters, get a name. If you have credits as a screenwriter, tell them!! Get a recommendation if you can.

- Work out how to promote yourself and do it WELL. Remember there's loads of competition: be ahead of the game

- Lie about simultaneous submissions!

- Most manuscripts are rejected because they are badly written and/or written with no sense of the market.

What Happens When A Publisher Makes You An Offer?

- A book offer is an advance against the royalties (residuals for our American friends). This is usually anything between £500 and £2m!! The advance is usually for more than one book.

- Stages of payment are usually: signature, acceptance of manuscript (after rewrites) and publication (the latter is sometimes split into 2, hardback and paperback).

- What rights are they buying? There's lots to choose from! Serial rights, audio rights, languages ("English Lang World" is the USA; UK English is "British Commonwealth"), territories, film, merchandising, large print? "World rights" is all of them.

- What *kind* of royalties can I get? Hardback is typically 10% - 12.5%; paperback 7.5% to 10%.

- If you build an audience, there's a good chance your publisher will want you to STAY with that audience - very keen on franchise opportunities ie. Worst Witch, Horrid Henry or writers "known" for writing a particular genre: ie. Lee Child, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, etc.

Julian left us with the following sobering thoughts:

- There is a shorter chain of command to publishing in comparison to films once a deal has been done; there is less development hell

- Novels get published when you get an offer: films get options - YET DON'T GET MADE

- We're all storytellers: stop obsessing over format and MAKE MORE MONEY!
-----------------------------------------------------
Hell, I'm sold. Now back to Nanowrimo...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Can You Help Us Out?

So, the majority of Slash is in the can and very good it looks, too. If you missed the photos of the shoot on Halloween recently, then you can see them here.

If you have been reading the updates however, then you know the ghosts of Hallows Eve conspired against us on a massive scale, meaning we lost the light for the two daytime scenes. This was particularly maddening, because the scenes are very short - but we can't really do without them, since they are in the set up of the story. This didn't stop us having a go of course:

DIRECTOR: I've got it! They're the type of couple who go NIGHTWALKING.

ME: Who the hell goes nightwalking?

DIRECTOR: OK, OK... The boyfriend got lost on his way here and they're running late.

ME: And the girlfriend conveniently doesn't notice daylight has disappeared and he's walking her through a wood??

DIRECTOR: The script says she's blindfolded! You wrote the bloody thing...

ME: *Glowers*

DIRECTOR: Alright, alright: they've decided to re enact the scenes from Michael Jackson's THRILLER.

ME: We're just grasping at straws now, aren't we.

So despite our best (mad) ideas in the middle of the night, we can't do without those two very short daytime scenes. This means bringing back our two lovely actors and sound guy from London, our marvellous makeup artist from Gloucester and our fine DoP from Oooop North. Whilst we can't afford to pay these wonderful people who've devoted their time to our project, we obviously need to pay their expenses. And inevitably, we're broke.

The scenes will be shot on December 12th, all being well (especially weather-wise). We're asking if you can spare a few quid towards our completion fund - five or ten pounds maximum, there's no need to dig into deep, especially with Chrimbo round the corner. In return we can offer you the script, a copy of my 19 page "script reading secrets" booklet and our undying thanks. The "Donate" button is still active on the right hand sidebar of this blog.

Thanks so much!

NOTE: PLEASE DON'T give more if you've given already, we don't want to take the mick, you've been kind enough already - besides, I don't have have anything more to give you in return since this short has taken up more time than I imagined!!! BTW, if you donated in the first round of the Slash fund and DIDN'T receive your script as promised, let me know immediately!!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New Service: Not From Concentrate

Got an email from this website this morning - thought it looked interesting, so thought I'd pass it on. You should note it's a paid-for service, but given so many screenwriters are writing spec TV series, might be worth investing in: gotta speculate to accumulate and all that. Let me know if you do use this service and what you think of it.
------------------------------------------------------

Hello and welcome to Not From Concentrate, the all-new ideas and talent agency, brought to you by former Channel 4 executives. We're here to help if you've ever had an idea for a TV sitcom, drama series, documentary, quiz show or any other programme you think will be a ratings winner.

To get things started, check out our comprehensive Starter Pack which includes:

- a unique Ideas Development Checklist to help you structure your ideas like the professionals
- a guide to the TV basics that puts telly jargon into plain English
- an overview of the commissioning and production world case studies and testimonials

Book a session with our Media Professionals who are on hand to:

- give you personalised feedback sessions
- prepare a written analysis of your idea
- spot potential gaps in the marketplace for your ideas to come to life

And log on to our website for details of:

- media trends and focuses
- industry call-outs and competitions
- live events and seminars
- jobs and career development opportunities

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Please Hold... Yet Again

Hi.

I know I haven't posted for nearly a week, I can tell you: everything's fine. Honest. (Well, fine apart from the fact Hub appears to have LOST the notebook with my SWF notes in!!!) Also:

1) I haven't given up blogging

2) I am not ill - nor is anyone else

3) No humans or animals are being harmed at my house (Unless Hub can't find said notebook)

I'm just drowning in a quagmire of work, script reading - and because I haven't enough to do, Nanowrimo too.

In the meantime, please feel free to catch up with me on:

Twitter

Facebook

Be back soon. Loving your work, darlinks. MWAH.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

SWF09 In Brief(ish)

I went to some really interesting sessions at the SWF, outlined for you below. Here are my immediate thoughts on the whole thing:

Women in film MUST be included next year. I was surprised and pleased to see loads more women than I expected and there was a consensus this needs attention next year. This made most obvious at the Son of The Pitch special when the fact there was only 1 woman out of 10 pitching was noted. Unfortunately none of the speakers from the floor complaining about it put the case particularly well I thought and I was unsure that was really the time for it. We need a proper panel, with various female filmmakers, writers and script editors, all dedicated to the idea of representation of women in film.

Speakers disappear in a puff of smoke. Despite the SWF selling itself to the writing public as an "easy access" to producers, agents and various other companies, these people's disappearances to the green room in-between sessions was obvious. One has to ask why there is a green room: is it because the producers et al fear getting mobbed? If so, I think they're imagining the average screenwriter is more "in your face" than I do - when I've seen speakers after sessions, both here and at other places, I've always been amazed by how much of a wide berth writers give them.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. I heard more than once complaints about people "putting it about", especially one of the speakers that DID make himself available to writers constantly for the whole four days (WTF?!! That's great, surely??) - and I heard complaints not enough people were networking either. This is quite patently ridiculous. You're a writer, you have to hustle. End of. I've heard stories from more experienced writers saying they "tag team" and requesting cards politely as soon as they see people - if that's "annoying" or "obnoxious", then we as screenwriters have to ask ourselves where we fit in if we are deemed to be a nuisance just by trying to make contact with people and companies. On the other point then, as I've always said: it's not just about the actual script, it's about you too. That script's not gonna sell itself!

Now, the sessions...

------------------------------------------------------------
THE CALL TO ADVENTURE - Chris Jones

An inspiring talk from filmmaker Chris Jones, whose short film Gone Fishing was *nearly* Oscar nominated this year. He made the very good point there's no excuse as "no money"; there's money EVERYWHERE. You want to make a film? Get out there and do it, the money will come. These are brave new times, we have the technology to make a cinematic-quality feature, it's all about WANTING IT. In these times then, it's all about DISTRIBUTION - and "it's never been easier to get out there and produce something we can exhibit on a global platform".

HOLLYWOOD OR BUST - Doug Chamberlin

A very illuminating insight into Hollywood and its many myths, including "No one knows anything" (apparently not true in Hollywood, instead "reality is perception": it's like a giant high school - who are the popular kids?); "everyone hires their friends" (apparently majority know no one when they start out and *anyone* can break in, it's all about GUERRILLA MARKETING and getting someone to champion your work) and "everyone is crazy" (semi-true, it's "real world logic" vs. ""Hollywood logic"). Simplest and most important rule: DON'T QUIT. If you quit, you'll never break in. End of. Go for what you want.

MAKING A LIVING AS A WRITER - Janice Day

What is standing in the way of you being a writer? More to writing than talent - it's all about DESIRE. If you want to be successful, you WILL be. Are you afraid of failure - or afraid of SUCCESS? Are you sabotaging yourself? Positive thinking is key. Set your goals - make them concrete. What are the steps to achieving those goals? You have to be like the Duracell Bunny, facing down those rejections and getting on with it: Janice's book was rejected by over forty publishers. Plan your time well: Janice spends 60% of her time on her most lucrative projects; 25% of the next lucrative and 15% of her time on her "dream". Manage your financial situation properly - to do this you have to know what it IS. Don't stick your head in the sand.

THE SCREENWRITER AS DIPLOMAT - Simon Beaufoy (In conversation with Peter Bloore)

A really interesting look at one of Britain's high profile screenwriters: Beaufoy had the worst time of his life after The Full Monty for example, being sued left, right and centre by male strippers! After that there were two feature disasters, Blow Dry and The Waterhorse, which apparently taught him to approach his career differently. He says to remember producers and directors are powerful people with powerful opinions - they're not necessarily STUPID people, even if we are outraged at the notes we get and the changes we get asked to make. He used to be bitter about the development process; now he realises it's just a queue. Never say a straight "no" to suggestions you get - ask for more time to think about it. The CORE of the story is what needs protecting - "everything else is up for grabs". He had some interesting insights on DIY Filmmaking too: "budget constraints focus the mind". apparently he made a super low budget film where he was the cook as well as writer! DIY filmmaking EMPOWERS the screenwriter (I heartily agree). If you want your idea on film, JUST DO IT.

MORE OF 4 - Tessa Ross with Kevin Loader

I unfortunately arrived late, but some great behind-the-scene insights from Tessa Ross. Remember the networks are NOT a bank but part of the creative team. Slumdog Millionaire gave C4 a very good reputation - without it, they might be in a very different position. Whilst they want more success like this, they don't want Slumdog copies: C4 is about talent, risk, writing. She made the very good point the British public don't like paying for drama at the cinema because we get so much quality drama on television. C4, BBC et al also have to compete with other English Language channels like those in America. What C4 looks for: scripts that are resonant, contemporary, driven by the writer.

SCRIPT ASSESSMENT FOR PRODUCERS - Esther Wouda

A look at how people might read scripts and/or what they might expect of them. An inexact science - so much depends on emotional response - Esther nevertheless does her best to pin down some common elements, including the mnemonic "M.O.U.V.E" - "meaning, originality, universality, verisimilitude (zeitgeist/feeling of time), emotion."

WRITE IT, SELL IT, MAKE IT - Panel Discussion

Another look at "getting out there" DIY Filmmaking-wise, which certainly appears to be the "thing of the moment". Some really interesting thoughts, including Slingshot's Arvind Ethan David's thoughts on Sugarhouse: "If we HADN'T had a theatrical release, we might have made some money on this film." Also under the microscope: no budget Zombie flick Colin, Gone Fishing, the SW Screen iFeatures initiative and The Exam. Food for thought: "what is my strategic commercial objective?" And "Does my budget make sense?"
------------------------------------------------------------------------
BTW, I went to more sessions than this - but the things I learnt will form the basis of some other posts with my own thoughts on the matter too in the coming weeks.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

SLASH Shoot

Whoa. Think I may have died somewhere in the last 36 hours and no one has bothered to inform my body as I type this, Zombie-like. Had hoped for a 2am or 3am end to the shoot this morning - we actually left the site at 7am. Basically, the Halloween SPIRITS FROM SATAN cobbled us, again and again: I've never known such a plethora of bad luck in such a short space of time:

1) A broken generator culminating in a mad dash back to my house on the off-chance one of our neighbours had one - WHICH HE DID. (God Bless ya, Tony)

2) A forgotten kettle

3) A single wrong turn that made us go approximately twenty miles out of our way

4) A torrential downpour

5) FIREWORKS!!! Yes that's right - November the 5th is fireworks night EVERYWHERE ELSE IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE (or at least the UK), but not in The New Forest apparently

But hey ho, these things are sent to try us and we're not dead yet (allegedly). It certainly means I learnt about two years' worth of producer stuff in just a few hours 'cos NO WAY I am ever gonna let that sorta thing happen ever again (though having said that, I'll prevent all that and something else will EXPLODE UP instead, like a rat out a drainpipe -- did *anyone* tell me filmmaking was like this?? Oh they did?! DAMMIT).

Many thanks to an awesome team who took it all in their stride: our two actors Lucy Laing and David Black; DoP David Beaumont; stunt coordinator Elaine Ford; runners Eve and David (seen above stepping in as the serial killer); sound guy Udit (You were brought on to the project so last minute I never found out your second name!); makeup artist Jessica Stonechild and of course the director Schuman. Hats off to ya.

Want to view photos of the location and the shoot? Here you go.